Residents: Protected Bike Lanes a Must for Queens Boulevard Phase 2

Dozens of Queens residents packed into a room at an Elmhurst school Thursday night to brainstorm a design for the second phase of Queens Boulevard’s transformation from a high-speed roadway to a safer street.

By the end of the meeting, there was a resounding call for protected bike lanes and a beautification project that would indicate to drivers that Queens Boulevard is a local road, not a highway. Residents should expect concrete changes as early as 2016.

The city began construction on the first phase of the project, between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street, last summer. Phase one included protected bike lanes, more pedestrian space, and other design changes to reduce speeds on the boulevard, where 185 people have lost their lives since 1990. Now DOT is soliciting input for improvements to be implemented between Eliot Avenue and 74th Street.

“We do not have a plan yet but we want to continue progress and we want everyone to help us with their suggestions,” said Nichole Altmix, DOT deputy director of research and safety.

Two main problem areas identified by residents last night were the Queens Center Mall, which attracts high volumes of car and pedestrian traffic, and the exit and entrance ramps for the Long Island Expressway. Adding to the chaos, Woodhaven Boulevard intersects with Queens Boulevard along the expressway ramps.

“You see the ramps with all this other stuff going on and think you’re going to die,” said Bob Moleti, who commutes by bike into Manhattan for work. “While biking on Queens Boulevard you have to haul ass and really try and match the speed of cars because that’s safer. But in the morning you just can’t go that fast. They’re really flying.”

Another major issue is the long distance between one side of the street and the other, which forces people walking to wait in the narrow medians in the middle of the boulevard.

At one of the tables, where a map of the boulevard was splayed out, Lou Walker, a member of Community Board 4, considered the area.

“We need a bike lane. That’s for sure. But we need to not impede traffic,” said Walker. “I’m very interested to see how all these conflicts are going to get resolved. And there are a lot of conflicts.”

Community Board District 4 encompasses Queens Boulevard between 73rd Street and Eliot Avenue, giving the board a say in how DOT will redesign the street.

One thing residents at the workshop weren’t conflicted about was the need to continue the installation of bike lanes.

The de Blasio administration has committed to revamp Queens Boulevard as part of its Vision Zero Great Streets program, along with Atlantic Avenue, the Grand Concourse, and Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue.

Future phases of the Queens Boulevard project will continue to push eastward. DOT will soon begin working with CB 4 on phase two.